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Sitar

Jeff Martin holding a Sitar

Introduction

A sitar is basically a hollowed out pumpkin with a neck, a gourd at the top of the neck which is for extra resonatoin, and 19 strings. The Sitar is an ancient Indian instrument; the design is over 600 years old.

The Sitar has another relative called a Tambura. It's basically a fretless drone Sitar; almost the bass Sitar.

Information on the Sitar

The Sitar is an ancient Indian instrument adapted from another ancient Indian instrument, The Southern Veena. It is constructed using a design over 600 years old.Jeff playing a Sitar It is made of a dried out pumpkin for the body, Tun or Sheasham wood for the neck, and a dried out gourd for the resonator at the top of the neck. The Sitar has 7 strings on the upper part of the body and 11 or 12 sympathetic strings under the frets. To allow the sympathetic strings to be under the frets and resonate, the curved nickel-silver frets are arch-shaped to allow for free resonation. All frets on a Sitar are moveable. They are held to the neck only with strings.There are a few variations on the design such as the single Sitar which does not have the sympathetic strings and the double Sitar, which does not have the gourd at the top of the neck.

To play the Sitar is similar to playing the guitar although there are a few variations in the styles of playing.Jeff playing First, instead of using a pick, a Sitarist uses 2 mizrabs, which is a metal finger pick. One mizrab is placed on the index finger and the other on the pinky. Second, the sitting position of the Sitar is quite different from a guitar. Thirdly, the tuning of the Sitar is quite different. The fourth and most dramatic difference in playing is the Indian Music System which is very, very complicated and will just confuse the hell out of anybody who tries to make sense of it.

More Sitar Information

The sitar is a classical instrument of Northern India which has 19 strings, 20 frets and an amazing sound. Traditionally the instrument is taught using the old indian gurukul system, when a student lives with his teacher or guru for the duration of their training. There is a proverb that says a student of the sitar must spend 20 years learning, twenty years performing, and twenty years teaching the instrument to truly appreciate it. Modern technology, and a fascination with the instrument, spawning from the '60s and Ravi Shankar has created a breed of "self-teaching" sitarists who purchase books and videos about the instrument.

One of the most versatile instruments in the world, the sitar allows a musician a wide range of expression. Micro-tonal variation is very easy to create The frets Jeff playing his Sitar(the numerous bar like objects that cross the fingerboard (main part) of the sitar) are posable and are tied onto the instrument. Different ragas emphasize different positions, and the artist often sets the frets a little off normal to provide the micro-tonal combination that he desires.

Unlike guitar frets, sitar frets are very curved and raised above the fingerboard and some strings actually run under them, and thus can not be fretted. When a string is fretted the tone or note it produces will change. The curved frets allow more versatility in bending a note than on a guitar. Bending a note involves pulling or pushing the sting it is made with into a different position on the fret, thus tightening the string and raising the pitch. The more you bend, the higher the note is. The sitar is played with a wire metal pick called a mizrab which allows the musician to play every level of strings at the same time.

Sitar

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